Thursday, May 26, 2016

Oregon Day 4: Hood River

Recently my wife (Sarajo) and I took a week's vacation to the Beer Mecca that is Portland, Oregon.  While we did try out a nearly overwhelming number of breweries, we also took some side trips and ate at a wonderful plethora of places.  On our third day in, two of our friends (Kathleen and Shea) met up with us from DC and joined in the fun.  I'm going to blog about the trip in some detail, mostly to immortalize it in the written word, but consider it a starting point for your own Portland area trip!  Feel free to shoot me any questions or clarifications if you like.

Day 4

Day 4 dawned bright and sunny, a perfect day for our planned field trip along the scenic Colombia river Gorge to the town of Hood River, Oregon.  After breakfast of Blue Star donuts (given to us a parting gift from Heidi of Forktown Tours the day before) and some coffee, we headed out!

Our first stop was along the way (maybe 45-60 minutes out of Portland I think) at a trailhead to Wahclella Falls.  The trail was fairly short (about a mile each way) but steep and rugged at times for us non-hikers.  It got pretty steamy along the way as well.  The scenery was breathtaking though, enormous moss-laden trees, exposed rock of cliffsides, small caves, wooden bridges across the river, and more.  Of course the waterfall at the end of the trail was the high point for me!  Regret for not lugging my tripod along was strong, but I did my best with long shutter speeds and hand holding the camera to get a few decent shots of the falls.  Sj and our friends were very patient as I stopped every 5 feet to take more pictures along the way.


Sweaty and tired, we made it back to the car and finished the trip to Hood River just in time for a late lunch at pFriem Family Brewers.  We discovered this place about 3 years ago on our way to Bend and it promptly jumped up to our "breweries to watch" list.  At the time they were very young, but still had some incredible beers.  Now they have only improved!  The brewery is right along the river, and since our last visit, a cool park has been built in between the brewery and the river.  The downstairs area was pretty full but we found seating upstairs easily.  The food is top-notch with nods to Belgium, Germany, and of course American cuisine.  All of us are "foodies" and this place rocked our world for lunch!

Between the four of us we tasted all the beers they had to offer, and we were all very impressed.  Three top notch IPA's led the charge--with my favorite being their regular IPA and second with the Down Under.  A tasty and refreshing Helles rounded out the portfolio with a lager.  Several versions of saison sparkled with true Belgian yeast character in a way that I haven't seen often in American versions of the style.  One of my favorite beers of the entire trip to Oregon was the Peche--a fairly classic peach lambic that puts most other American sours to shame (I'm talking to you kettle sours!).  I ended up having to get a whole glass of this and bought a bottle to take home.  Seldom do I find a brewery that has this much range and technical skill in brewing such varied styles.  Throw in excellent service, great food, and beautiful location and this pFriem is a winner!  It kind of blows my mind that so few people in Portland have even heard of these guys.

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales

A new addition to the Hood River beer scene since our last trip out is a tasting room for Logsdon Farmhouse Ales.  The brewery itself is somewhere outside of town and has been putting out great beers from--you guessed it--a farmhouse brewery!  Now thirsty travelers can taste the great and funky stuff in a comfortable taproom right downtown.  I've managed to get my hands on a few bottles of these beers over the past few years and wrote up Peche 'n Brett as one of my Whale A Week tastings HERE.

Sj and I each ordered a sampler to share so we could try most of the options.  The sampler glasses were actually bigger than most and we had to enlist our friends to help us with them!  On a funny note, one of the wooden sampler trays got wet and expanded a bit, not allowing Sj to be able to pull the glass out of the base.  They also had a little sandwich station in the back end of the place in case of hunger...

While pFriem really shone with their takes on classic Belgian ales, Logsdon stood out for doing their own different and more unusual versions.  The two more traditional beers Moniken Kruin (Quad) and Straffe Drieling (Tripel) were both good, but were my least favorite of the bunch (both got 3.75 scores though!)  Oaked Aged Bretta was their oak aged saison with brettanomyces (4), Cerasus was the cherry funk/sour beer (4), Far West Vlaming was the Flanders Red (4), and the Szech 'n Brett was the saison with Chinese Szechuan peppercorns (4).  Yup I liked all the beers here quite a lot.  4's are usually my top beers so this place was stellar.

Double Mountain Brewing

After having our fill of Belgian and Belgian-esque beers, we stopped briefly at Double Mountain Brewery.  This place is known for their hoppy beers and is a favorite of my cousins who live out this way.  It has a more classic brewpub feel and makes some pretty good pizzas to kill the hunger.  My favorite beers this visit were the Mama Tried, and Dearly Beloved--both classic American IPAs.  Molten Lava DIPA was also quite good.  They had a cider, a perry, and a sour kriek that were all respectable, but these guys shine with the hops.

Full Sail Brewing
, we swung by Full Sail Brewing for a quick dram on the way back to the car.  Full Sail is the elder statesman of the brew scene in Hood River, (and Oregon for that matter) and is worth a stop.  They focus more on lagers and sessionable beers, but have some cool things at the tap room from time to time.  They have a great view of the river from the deck, but some of this has been obscured by new buildings since our last visit.  While there we tried Hop Pursuit IPA which was on cask--smooth, but not a ton of hop character going on.  A decent stop for sure, but it remains below the other two breweries in town for me.

Olympia Provisions

On the way back home we nearly ran out of gas, since none of us remembered to fill up in town, but made it to a gas station in time!  We eventually arrived back to our home base of the McMenamins Kennedy School.  A quick change and we were all off again to our dinner reservation at Olympia Provisions (formerly Olympic Provisons).  This is a cool restaurant and deli that makes all their own sausage and charcuterie, and was on the top of our planned dining options for this trip.  They have a few local craft brews on tap, but mostly specialize in wine and cocktails.  Shea and I ordered heaping platters of sausage goodness while the ladies ate more refined dishes and sipped at fancy cocktails.

McMenamins Detention Bar

Back home at the hotel, Kathleen headed back to her promptly fall asleep instead of partying with the rest of us.  She may have had the right idea.  Sj, Shea, and I all took a trip to one of the hotel's myriad bar options.  We started with the tiny old Vice Principal's office that has been dubbed Detention.  Dark and close, seating about 8-10 very cozy people, this is also the whiskey and cigar bar.  A few open high windows and a small fan actually provided remarkably good ventilation while surrounded by pungent cigar smoke.  Trying some Scotch, but no cigars, we hung out until we smelled properly of smoke and were ready to move on.  While here, we discovered several other patrons dressed like escapees from an 1980's John Hughes film and later realized that they were having an 80's Prom Party in the main ballroom (gymnasium) of the school that night.  Things just keep getting weirder...

McMenamin's Boiler Room Bar

Rusty wheels in my head starting to slow down now.  A long day of hiking, eating, and yes plenty of drinking, was finally taking its toll.  But hey, why not check out one more bar?  I mean, its in the hotel right?  We're already home right?  So we three survivors slogged down the stairs to the old boiler room, past odd paintings and sculptures, stair rails made of old radiator coils, things starting to have an ominous and more bizarre dreamlike cast.  Tasting through an ill-advised sampler of McMenamin's house distilled whiskeys, we all hung out and relaxed until our bodies finally gave up and forced us to give in to sleep.  Don't worry we all made it back to our rooms safely!

Running Tally:
Breweries: 12
Distilleries: 2
Pubs/Bars: 7

1 comment:

Sarajo Wentling said...

It's fun to relive this great trip through your commentary! What you fail to mention, is that you gave up after that whiskey flight and Shea and I kept drinking! ;)